The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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June 14, 2013

Booking system praised

EBENSBURG — The first of what may be a number of positions needed to staff Cambria County’s newly implemented central booking system was created by the commissioners this week.

The action came amid accolades by the commissioners and Cambria County Prison Warden John Prebish, who agreed the system is ready be fully implemented by next month.

“This was well done,” said president Commissioner Douglas Lengenfelder.

“This was a creative way, by opening the center to the northern half of the county first, then opening it to the south.”

The center went into operation in early May with all police departments from Cambria Township north to the county line bringing defendants to the system established at the jail rather than to the local magisterial district judges’ offices for arraignment.

With more than a month of successful operation, Prebish said the booking staff is ready to begin accepting defendants for arraignment from Johnstown and all other departments south of Route 22.

The prison anticipates expanding the service beginning July 8.

The center was developed with the goal of reducing the time police departments throughout the county must dedicate to arraignments at the district judges’ offices.

Designed by Cambria County President Judge Timothy Creany, District Attorney Kelly Callihan and Prebish to mirror a similar one in Centre County, the center allows police departments to drop defendants off at the prison for processing and return to patrol.

Once at the prison, the defendant is arraigned via video hookups with the district judges. Arraignments are held each day at 8 a.m., 4 p.m. and 10 p.m., regardless of the time the defendants were brought in.

Juveniles arrested on more serious crimes also will be processed through central booking, but extra steps are being taken to provide that the younger defendants are kept separate from adult defendants.

Eventually, plans call for a separate booking area for juveniles.

Prebish has been operating the center by shifting two corrections officers out of the prison. 

Through midweek, the center had  processed 101 bookings since it started.

Those included 41 people in custody and 60 people termed “walk-ins” reporting for their own for arraignments.

“We anticipate our numbers more than doubling with the south coming on board,” Prebish said.

State law allows the central booking system to impose a $200 booking fee for adult defendants arrested for felonies, misdemeanors or summary offenses that become misdemeanors on a second arrest after conviction.

A $50 booking fee will be assessed against juvenile defendants arrested on charges that if filed against an adult would constitute the same category of crime.

Funds for the staff needed to man the center along with money for an anticipated addition to better house the center will be paid for from the fund.

Cambria County Controller Edward Cernic Jr. said he has established a separate account for the booking fees, but the costs to operate the center coming from the general fund budget.

Lengenfelder said it is a cash flow issue and any money taken out of the general fund will eventually be repaid from the booking fund account.

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